Nov. 19: Monday’s deadline is set for 8 p.m. ET, according to Jon Morosi of MLB.com (Twitter link).
Nov. 17: MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters that he expects an agreement to be reached (link via ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick). “I don’t sense that this is a disconnect with the union,” said Manfred. “These are relatively small issues. … I don’t think they’re earth-shattering.”
In fact, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the union’s issues with the proposed agreement aren’t necessarily related to Ohtani. The union is on board with extending the current agreement for one year but takes umbrage with several components of the system that would go into place next offseason.
The system, as currently constructed, would allow NPB teams to post players throughout the majority of the offseason; the union, not wanting domestic free agency to be held up by the uncertainty of whether Japanese players will be posted, wants NPB teams to make that call by Nov. 15.
The new proposal also awards the NPB team a sum that is equal to 20 percent of the contract the player signs with an MLB team (not 20 percent of his actual contract, though) and allows the NPB club to rescind its posting of a player if it is unsatisfied with the contract to which he agrees. Rosenthal notes that MLB allowed the pullback provision due to NPB concerns that a player could sign a small deal and then sign a much larger extension within a year or two.
Beyond the extension matter, though, it’s easy to see where NPB might take issue to the 20 percent system without the ability to withdraw its player. The new system bears some similarity to the previous blind bidding system. Under that iteration of the posting system (which is still in place with the Korea Baseball Organization), all 30 teams were allowed to submit blind bids for posted players. That player’s NPB team would then have the ability to accept or reject the top bid.
There’s no word yet on how NPB views the MLBPA’s wish to remove the “pullback” component, but it’s not hard to imagine they’d be reluctant to agree without that luxury. With no way of knowing precisely how MLB clubs would value a player, an NPB club would be taking a significant risk by posting one of its stars and then merely hoping that an MLB team would be willing to pay enough to make the posting of said player profitable.
Both the blind bidding system and the current $20MM maximum give NPB teams some degree of up-front knowledge of how they’ll be compensated; without the “pullback” system in this scenario, they’d effectively be rolling the dice on how MLB teams value their top talents. In the case of a legitimate superstar, there’d be little reason for concern. Rather, there’d be upside, as clubs with that rare caliber of player would stand to gain considerably more than the current $20MM maximum. But in the case of above-average players that aren’t necessarily at the Ohtani or Yu Darvish level, that system would be substantially more risk-laden and may simply prevent NPB clubs from posting all but star-level talents.
Nov. 16: The MLBPA has set a Monday deadline to come to an agreement on a new posting system, Heyman now tweets. If the union sticks to that deadline, MLB clubs will have clarity on Ohtani’s availability as much as two weeks earlier than Halem initially suggested.
Nov. 15, 10:10pm: The MLBPA is still holding up negotiations, per FanRag’s Jon Heyman. While MLB, NPB and the MLBPA are presently at a “standstill,” there’s still optimism that an agreement will eventually be worked out. Heyman reported last week that the union had significant concerns regarding the fact that the Fighters would stand to receive a $20MM windfall while Ohtani himself would only be compensated at a maximum level of about $3.5MM.
12:12pm: The hope is that Major League Baseball and Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball will finalize a new posting system at some point in early December, MLB Chief Legal Officer Dan Halem tells reporters including Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter link).
Until that comes to pass, Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani will not be able to begin the process of moving to the majors. At this point, an agreement on the system seems to be all that stands in the way of what promises to be a fascinating posting.
As Newsday’s David Lennon reminds us on Twitter, it took until December 10th for a new posting agreement to be struck back in 2013, paving the way for Masahiro Tanaka to finally sign about six weeks later. There’s no particular reason to think that Ohtani’s own signing process will follow a similar trajectory; if anything, he’ll likely have quite a few more serious suitors to consider.
Barring a big surprise, then, there won’t really be much of an indication of where Ohtani could be headed when the Winter Meetings take place in mid-December. Teams will likely be forced to weigh major trades and free agent signings without knowing whether they have a real shot at the market’s most intriguing name. While Tanaka held up the pitching market quite notably during his own period of recruitment, perhaps that won’t happen here since Ohtani won’t require that kind of financial commitment. But his situation could yet weigh on the rest of the market in any number of ways, particularly since he’s expected to desire some kind of commitment to being utilized both on the mound and at the plate.
Halem also touched upon a few other matters in his chat with reporters. In particular, the league is set to engage with the MLB Player’s Association on new pace-of-play initiatives, as Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets. A variety of potentially controversial measures (most notably, a pitch clock) will be weighed, with the hope of reaching agreement by the middle of January.
Additionally, Halem noted that the league is looking into complaints regarding game baseballs. Testing, says Halem, has not shown any differences from 2016 (via Alex Speier of the Boston Globe, on Twitter). But the league will be looking into the matter further, he says and Jon Morosi of MLB Network tweets.